Woodchester Mansion – Gloucestershire, England - Atlas Obscura
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Woodchester Mansion

A well-studied colony of endangered bats roosts in this abandoned Victorian Gothic mansion. 

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Woodchester Mansion may appear complete on the outside, but on the inside it’s missing a large portion of its floors and rooms. But it hasn’t been demolished—the mansion was abandoned mid-construction in the 1870s, and has remained in this state ever since.

Between the 17th and early 19th century, the estate of Woodchester Park was owned by the wealthy Ducie family, and in 1788 their manor house was visited by King George III. It was then sold to William Leigh in 1840, who sought to build a new mansion house of his own. After the original architect Augustus Pugin fell ill, Leigh hired a young and aspiring Benjamin Bucknall, and the construction finally started in 1858.

It lasted until 1870, but when Leigh died in 1873, all the construction work stopped immediately. The mansion was abandoned, but the real reason why, one can only speculate. It has been theorised that the cost of construction (or demolition) had become a lot more than Leigh’s family could afford, and that perhaps they weren’t too fond of the design. As expected, however, multiple rumors started to spread over the decades. Some say that the mansion was abandoned because a gruesome murder took place there, or that ghosts scared everyone off.

Whatever the truth is, this Gothic Revival mansion is a magnificent work of architecture, albeit unfinished. An interesting, often overlooked feature of it is its resident colonies of greater and lesser horseshoe bats in the attic room. The bats have been studied since 1959, and the long-term study has contributed to the scientific knowledge of these endangered animals. Scientists use infrared cameras to observe the bats while they roost in the mansion every year from April through September.

Know Before You Go

Woodchester Mansion is normally open to the public every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., from the beginning of April to the end of October.